Da Bears! by
100
(101 Stories)

Prompted By Super Bowl

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1986. The last time I cared about the Super Bowl. We had the “Punky QB” named McMahon, Walter “Sweetness” Payton, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Dan “D-Animal” Hampton, Dave “Double D” Duerson, “Samurai” Mike Singletary, “Speedy” Willie Gault, and “Da Coach,” AKA Ditka. My kids, ages 15, 13, and 9, had become versions of Robert Smigel’s infamous Superfans, who were local favorites and later huge hits and Saturday Night Live in the early nineties. We never missed a game on our march to Super Bowl XX.

Thirty-five years after the giddy fun of singing the Super Bowl Shuffle and celebrating Da Bears’ victory, this former Superfan is done.

The Super Bowl Shuffle was performed endlessly by my kids. They knew every word and could imitate all of the gestures. In case you don’t remember Super Bowl XX and are not from Chicago, its chorus was:

We are the Bears Shufflin’ Crew
Shufflin’ on down, doin’ it for you.
We’re so bad we know we’re good.
Blowin’ your mind like we knew we would.
You know we’re just struttin’ for fun
Struttin’ our stuff for everyone.
We’re not here to start no trouble.
We’re just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.

The members of the Shufflin’ Crew had their breakout solos:

Walter Payton rapped,
“Well, they call me Sweetness,
And I like to dance.
Runnin’ the ball is like makin’ romance…”

Willie Gault’s verse included,
“This is Speedy Willie, and I’m world class.
I like runnin’ but I love to get the pass…
Now I’m as smooth as a chocolate swirl,
I dance a little funky, so watch me girl…”

And our favorite verse from Jim McMahon, who usually wore his signature headband and sun glasses,
“I’m the punky QB, known as McMahon.
When I hit the turf, I’ve got no plan.
I just throw my body all over the field.
I can’t dance, but I can throw the pill…”

The only Super Bowl party I remember attending was that year, although it’s possible I went to one in 2007 when the Bears lost. In 1986, we went to our friend’s party dressed in our Bears paraphernalia. Everyone was super excited until my 13-year-old daughter threw up and she and I were exiled to watch at home. Not so thrilling to view the actual game with a miserable and feverish kid, although my husband and other two kids had a grand time. Despite not being able to enjoy the actual, and only, victory of Da Bears in the Super Bowl, I did savor the aftermath. Chicago was giddy as it celebrated its beloved team with a parade and Grant Park rally. We had videotaped the game and celebration and watched them several times to relive the miraculous achievement. What ever happened to that videotape? What ever happened to those guys?

Well, several members of the Shufflin’ Crew have done very well for themselves in the 34 years since Super Bowl XX. Most notably Ditka, affectionately still known as Da Coach in these parts. Now 80, Ditka made a fortune as a sports commentator, restaurant owner, entertainer, celebrity pitchman, and all-around person of interest. His politically conservative views have made him less amusing and endearing to me. He was an adamant critic of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination, arguing that America has been free of oppression for the past 100 years. I guess you could say he’s been monetarily successful, but he’s no beloved hero to me.

Other success stories include Dan Hampton and Mike Singletary, who both made the Football Hall of Fame. Hampton became a broadcaster, while Singletary ultimately had a career coaching in college and the NFL. Willie Gault was both a track and football star, did some acting, and according to some sources has been financially successful. Walter Payton was a Chicago hero until his death on Nov. 1, 1999, at age 45 of bile duct cancer and liver failure. After retiring, he had success in several business and worked to help others through the Walter Payton Foundation.

It is the members of the Shufflin’ Crew whose lives took a bad turn after the Super Bowl glory and football ended for them that shape my current feelings about the sport. That “Punky QB” with his cool demeanor was part of a class action suit against the NFL for its negligence in treating players who suffered multiple concussions and head injuries in service of entertaining the fans.  In his prime, he was a wise guy who suffered numerous concussions, a broken neck and a lacerated kidney. The team doctors treated his problems with pain pills and injections.

McMahon now has symptoms of dementia, and he is likely suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), brain degeneration caused by repeated head trauma. His teammate and star on defense, Dave Duerson, killed himself at age 50 due to depression and CTE symptoms. Both men willed their brains to science, as CTE is a diagnosis made only at autopsy by studying sections of the brain

Another sad outcome that reveals a different aspect of football is William Perry. In 2008, “The Refrigerator” was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a chronic condition that causes nerve damage. By 2011, heavy drinking, health problems, and lack of money left him a 425-pound, wheelchair bound man with diabetes. He sold his flashy Super Bowl ring and moved into his late father’s house under the care of his brother. According to an article by Parnav Guur published in Medium, “Perry’s only income comes in the form of monthly government disability insurance, social security, and NFL pension payments.” I guess no one teaches football heroes how to manage their money once the fame and glory have passed.

These days, I’m not much of a football fan and have no desire to watch this year’s Super Bowl. While my husband, son, and sons-in-law are still prone to shout or cheer when someone makes a brutal tackle or sacks the quarterback or is called for unnecessary roughness, I have lost all interest in this aspect of the sport. I ruin the games I do watch with them by calling out “unfair” or “too rough” or “time out.” I hate the excessive displays of forced patriotism and don’t get why teams with lousy quarterbacks (think Da Bears 2019) don’t sign Colin Kaepernick as a backup or even starter. I guess I dislike the owners’ politics as much as I detest the unnecessary violence. Thirty-five years after the giddy fun of singing the Super Bowl Shuffle and celebrating Da Bears’ victory, this former Superfan is done.

My kids in the Super Bowl XX era

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Laurie, I remember that Super Bowl very well too, as the Patriots were the losing team and had a humiliating defeat. I had taken 5 month old David to visit my dad in Laguna Hills (my parents divorced in 1981 and Dad got the condo; he had longed to move to CA for most of their married life). To introduce me and his baby grandson to all his friends, he decided to have a Super Bowl party. David, still an infant, could nap, wake up, be the adorable life of the party, then go back to sleep as needed and the party could go on with the TV on in the background. My dad was well into his 70s and didn’t care that much about either team. It was just an excuse to show us off. He was a very sociable guy. He and all his friends were from the Mid-West, so I was the ONLY person there rooting for the Patriots and was not happy with the results, but not paying too much attention to the game either, as I was caring for a 5 month old and meeting all my dad’s friends.

    I entirely understand you point of view about the violence of the game and also cringe when there is a big collision or someone is hurt on the field. And I, also, don’t like the politics of most of the owners (including Robert Kraft; his deceased wife Myra was a trustee at Brandeis and is spinning in her grave. She went on a mission to Israel rather than going to Trump’s last wedding.) Billionaire owners taking care of themselves. This may evolve over time.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      What a lovely memory of your father and the Super Bowl, Betsy. I won’t shed too many tears about the Patriots’ loss as they have had lots of success in recent years while the Bears are always waiting/hoping for next year. And I agree with your hope that the politics of the owners (and maybe some of the violence) will change over time.

  2. What I love so much about MyRetrospect is getting all these different takes on one prompt! The Super Bowl is about more than a game, and football clearly isn’t just football. Your family’s enthusiasm, your community’s spirit, your familiarity with the sport and its politics, and your knowledge and understanding of the perils combined to make for a captivating and thought-provoking read. Beautifully written, Laurie…thanks so much!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Barbara. I have seen recent pictures of our former Punky QB and Refrigerator, and they don’t look great. That season was magical for my family, as were the years with Michael Jordan and Da Bulls. Grateful for the happy memories!

  3. Laurie, I just commented on Barbara’s post about the film Concussion.
    Shame on the NFL for condoning the rough stuff that leads to severe head injuries, as they worship the holy dollar!

    Sorry Retro crew, to be such a downer on the subject of this prompt. But on the other hand the men in my family wouldn’t miss a Super Bowl for the world and in fact I’ve I just been reminded to order the deli sandwiches for tomorrow.

  4. Marian says:

    Laurie, such great details about “Da Bears”! But how sad for Jim McMahon and Refrigerator Perry. I did not know of their troubles. I watch games occasionally but cringe when there are those terrible hits.

  5. Amazing detail and recall, Laurie. I most certainly remember that version of Da Bears. Especially the way they manhandled my Giants in the playoffs. I also developed a soft spot for Da Bears in the years that I lived in Chicagoland – 1999-2004. Our firm had season tickets and as CEO guess who had first dibs?

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I guess I remember that team so well because the Super Bowl season was a family bonding event. My gang would have been very envious of your season tickets. Now, one of my kids and his family are Patriots fans (they have had fun in recent years) and one daughter and her family are mildly into the Colts. As for the rest of us in Chicago — sigh.

  6. Suzy says:

    Great story, Laurie! I loved learning about the Super Bowl Shuffle, and the crew, and the breakout solos. I never knew about any of it! I do remember hearing about a player called William “The Refrigerator” Perry, and thinking that was such a great nickname. And I remember that recurring SNL skit about Da Bearss, although I never really got it. Guess it was aimed at people like you! Sorry to hear how things turned out for The Refrigerator. I don’t blame you for being done with football.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Did you see the Super Bowl half-time show, Suzy? We got home just in time to catch it and J-Lo looked amazing for 50! Your story reminded me of how different college football was. It was such a huge deal at Michigan and when we went to a game a few years ago, I really enjoyed it. Of course, the best part was the marching band and the half-time show.

  7. John Shutkin says:

    Knowing you were a Chicagoan, Laurie, I was not surprised to see your focus on “Da Bears” of 1986. Great team with great stories/personalities, even for a non-Chicago fan (as opposed to an anti-Chicago fan, as in Green Bay). But thank you also for addressing the darker side of football that makes me really question the game. I knew about Duerson, but McMahon and Fridge are sad revelations to me. And I fully agree with your last paragraph and all the disgusting faux “patriotism” that is on display. Just hire Kaepernick, for crissakes. The NFL owners are as gutless as the Republicans in Congress.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I missed much of the Super Bowl last night, but I did catch the half time show, which was pretty good for a change. Other than that, the way things have evolved since 1986 just makes me sad. The Bears not only drafted another loser QB, but their ownership would never take a chance on Kaepernick as he could take a knee when the big patriotic stuff is happening. I guess we should be more worried about Congress than this garbage.

  8. Though it often didn’t seem like it at the time, those were magical times – watching the Bears, Bulls and kids growing up.
    ‘Those were the days, my friend – we thought they’d never end…’

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